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  • A New Orleans streetcar is a popular and economical way to see the city
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    New Orleans: History and Culture in the Big City

  • Shoreline at the Fountainebleu State Park in Mandeville
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    New Orleans’ Northshore: Fun on Lake Pontchartrain

  • Mardi Gras revelers celebrating in downtown Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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    Baton Rouge: Food, Nightlife and History to Spare

  • Colorful skies as seen from Earl G. Williamson Park on the banks of Caddo Lake in Oil City
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    Shreveport-Bossier: Culture, Casinos and Festivals

Distance view of the Lake Pontchartrain Bridge spanning 38 kilometers
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Touring Louisiana: Uncovering Culture and Hidden Gems

By Idoia Gkikas

  • Route distance:
    1133.00 km
  • Suggested Time:
    6 days

Louisiana adds a distinctive cultural landscape to the American South.

Nearly every nation has left its footprint on Louisiana, resulting in one of the most culturally rich places on the planet. Native American, French, Spanish and Caribbean influences are among the most visible, and today, the state continues to be a popular and welcoming destination for visitors from around the world. Explore some of Louisiana’s "old-meets-new" cities in iconic New Orleans, the growing Northshore region, the college town of Baton Rouge and Shreveport in northwestern Louisiana.

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A New Orleans streetcar is a popular and economical way to see the city
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Cheryl Gerber

New Orleans: History and Culture in the Big City

Fly into Louis Armstrong International Airport (MSY) and get ready to see what the Crescent City has to offer. Yes, come for the party, but fall in love with so much more. Survey the city on a convenient City Sightseeing bus, a double-decker, hop-on/hop-off, narrated tour bus that takes you to the most popular sites. Catch the French Market, Jackson Square, the Garden District and unique cemeteries, museums and attractions on this entertaining bus ride. For an authentic feel, board a historic St. Charles streetcar, the world’s oldest continuously operating streetcar. Spot everything from Canal Street all the way to Uptown for stunning views of moss-draped live oaks, 19th century mansions, Loyola and Tulane universities, and the Audubon Zoo. It’s an authentic experience and easy on the wallet. A little off-the-beaten-path, venture to Mid-City Lanes Rock ‘n’ Bowl for an unforgettable night of food, drinks, live music, dancing and yes, bowling. (Tip: Thursday night is Zydeco night, a guaranteed New Orleans-style good time.) Next up: Grab a rental car and head to the Northshore, just a short drive away.

56 km
0.75 hours by car
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Shoreline at the Fountainebleu State Park in Mandeville
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New Orleans’ Northshore: Fun on Lake Pontchartrain

Driving across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, the world’s longest continuous bridge over water at 38 kilometers long, is an experience in itself. Once you reach the Northshore, across the lake from New Orleans, encounter a refreshing change of pace. There are plenty of relaxing outdoor activities and waterfront restaurants to enjoy. Spend a few carefree hours hiking, biking, swimming and sunbathing at Fontainebleau State Park, the site of a 19th century sugar mill. If you love being out on the water, book a sailing charter on Lake Pontchartrain or rent kayaks to paddle Cane Bayou. Nature lovers should rent a bicycle at Brooks’ Bike Shop and pedal along the Tammany Trace, a 50-kilometer former railroad line converted into a paved, multi-use trail and part of the Rails to Trails Hall of Fame. Along the Mandeville lakefront, you’ll find magnificent historic homes, a paved walking path alongside centuries-old oak trees and family-friendly parks. Ride up Girod Street for antique and boutique shopping and a bustling Saturday morning farmers market at the Mandeville Trailhead. After you've worked up an appetite, unwind and settle in for a good time at Rips on the Lake. Request balcony seating for wonderful views to pair with the fresh seafood specialties. Time your visit with local events celebrating the Northshore’s connection to the water such as the Madisonville Wooden Boat Festival each October, which features vintage wooden boats, arts and crafts, contests, family activities and a beer garden. The charming ambience continues in Baton Rouge, up next.

119 km
1.25 hours by car
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Mardi Gras revelers celebrating in downtown Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Baton Rouge: Food, Nightlife and History to Spare

It’s a short drive west to Louisiana’s capital city of Baton Rouge, home to Louisiana State University (LSU). Bike the scenic paths along the LSU Lakes, or take a leisurely stroll beneath the many oaks and magnolias that shade this gorgeous campus. In the fall, catch a college football game and experience the Southern tailgate culture, a popular pre-game ritual. Make instant friends with the locals by wearing purple and gold, the colors of LSU and its mascot, the Tigers. Just about every Louisianan is a die-hard fan. A collection of bars and restaurants in downtown Baton Rouge along Third Street caters to the lively college crowd as well as visitors. Stroll the walkable streets, enjoy riverfront views and tour the State Capitol Building. Don’t miss the fantastic city and river views from its 27th floor observation deck. Stop by the Old State Capitol for a photo op of its amazing castle-like exterior and the Museum of Political History tucked inside. Before your next stop, be sure to visit the city’s oldest neighborhoods: Spanish Town (known for its raucous Mardi Gras parade) and Beauregard Town. Both neighborhoods are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

404 km
3.75 hours by car
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Colorful skies as seen from Earl G. Williamson Park on the banks of Caddo Lake in Oil City
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Shreveport-Bossier: Culture, Casinos and Festivals

On the way to Shreveport-Bossier in northwest Louisiana, discover two beautifully preserved plantations at Cane River Creole National Historical Park in Natchitoches. Nestled along the Red River, Shreveport-Bossier offers riverboat casinos, an impressive list of festivals and events, cultural attractions, Louisiana Boardwalk Outlets and the Shreveport Aquarium. Immerse yourself in Louisiana history at the Logan Mansion, a magnificent 1897 Victorian-style home, where you can experience a narrated tour complete with ghost stories. History buffs will also enjoy learning how early settlers lived by touring plantation homes, blacksmith shop and medical office at the Pioneer Heritage Center at LSU Shreveport.

To discover some of the area’s off-the-beaten-path gems, drive the 218-kilometer Boom or Bust Byway. This road traverses four parishes (counties) and shows the effects that oil and gas booms and busts have had on the small towns of Northwest Louisiana. Notable stops include the railroad artifacts at the Vivian Railroad Station Museum and the state’s oil and gas history at the Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum. Another ideal stop is the Earl G. Williamson Park, an ideal place to boat, fish and camp or just take some photos of the region’s natural beauty. The park also hosts the annual Christmas on Caddo Fireworks Festival, competitive fishing tournaments, Gusher Days Festival and the annual Get Hooked on Fishing Day for Kids.

All year long, it’s easy to plan your visit to coincide with one of more than 60 festivals and events held here each year, including Mardi Gras, the Mudbug Madness Festival, Ark-La-Tex Ambassadors BBQ Cookoff, Let the Good Times Roll Festival, Louisiana Prize Fest and Red River Revel Arts Festival. After all the great local fun, stay overnight in Shreveport-Bossier. You can fly out of the Shreveport Regional Airport, or drive three hours to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) or the five hours back to New Orleans to catch a flight.

Official Louisiana Travel Site

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
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